The Q&A Archives: Aging Mulch

Question: I have some fresh finely chipped mulch from a willow tree and an ash tree. Should it be aged first (I read somewhere that in breaking down it uses up available nitrogen) or can I apply it immediately to the gardens and around apple trees?

Answer: Yes, it would be good to age the chips first, but that's NOT required! You are also right that chips will use up nitrogen as they decompose. You can get around this by just working some nitrogen into the soil. This can be done in the form a slow-acting fertilizer like cottonseed meal or alfalfa meal. If you notice any yellowing of the leaves you can fertilize the plants with a nitrogen-rich, water-soluble fertilizer. I often use fresh chips around my perennial beds and trees, shrubs, etc. I have never had a problem, but stand ready with my "portable" nitrogen!

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